With both the House and Senate having already approved budget resolutions, Democrats are eager to do what Republicans originally said they wanted to do – follow “regular order” and hash out the differences in a conference committee. Except, as we discussed yesterday, GOP leaders have completely abandoned their own position and refuse to allow the bicameral talks.
Yesterday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) once again tried to follow the process that Republicans endorsed as recently as March, and once again, Reid was blocked by the Senate minority. This time, however, it led to an interesting confrontation between the Majority Leader and the chamber’s least popular member.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said he’d allow the budget process to move forward if Senate Democrats agreed to certain conditions: the House-Senate talks could not raise any taxes on anyone by any amount, and the result of the negotiations could not raise the debt ceiling, which Cruz and others still hope to use as leverage as part of another hostage crisis later this year.
Reid patiently explained that the budget process already included several hundred amendments, and that Cruz’s suggestions lost. The Texas Republican was effectively arguing that he’ll block the budget process unless the side that won these fights agrees to unilaterally concede because Ted Cruz says so. The Nevada Democrat called this “ridiculous,” adding:
“[Cruz] is s like the school yard bully – he pushes everybody around and is losing, and instead of playing the game according to the rules, he not only takes the ball home with him but changes the rules. That way no one wins except the bully who tries who indicate to people he has won. We’re asking Republicans to play by the rules and let us go to conference.”
And it was at this point that we learned that Cruz doesn’t understand Senate procedure nearly as well as he thinks it does.
The above video was edited slightly and doesn’t fully capture the exchange, but Cruz was supposed to respond with an objection. Instead he responded to Reid, “I wasn’t aware we were in a school yard.” Reid replied, “There is either an objection or no objection.”
Cruz, out of his depth, said he was “reserving the right to object.” The Majority Leader, annoyed, responded, “There is no such thing, okay?” Cruz finally objected, effectively ending the debate, such as it was.
So, what can we take away from this? First, Democrats are vastly more confident in their budget posture than Republicans, which should tell the GOP something important about the popularity of their ideas. Second, Republicans really are preparing another hostage crisis with the debt ceiling.
And third, Cruz may love the sound of his own voice, but he’s still a rookie who has not yet figured out how the Senate works.